When it comes to buying appliances price matters, and good customer service and quality are still elusive goals, according to Consumer Reports’ exclusive appliance buying survey of more than 18,000 subscribers.
Abt Electronics was the top choice of survey respondents for major appliances, and Amazon.com was among the best for small appliances. Here are highlights of the Consumer Reports’ survey:
Price gets you in the door
Low prices and sales were the top reasons people went to a specific retailer. A third of respondents visited price-comparison websites before shopping. People were generally satisfied with the prices they paid, but no seller received the magazine’s top grade.
About a third of respondents tried negotiating down a major appliance’s price, with success more than 70 percent of the time — to the tune of $93 on average.
For major appliances such as refrigerators, ranges, and dishwashers, only Abt Electronics and the regional HHGregg got the nod from subscribers with better-than-middling ratings for price. For small appliances, Amazon rated highly, and respondents also praised Costco, Kohl’s, and Sam’s Club for their prices.
Shopping tip. Look for discount coupons from retailer and manufacturer websites.
Selection is not always great
Twenty-nine percent of major-appliance shoppers went to a retailer because the store stocked a particular brand or model. But far fewer chose a seller specifically for its selection, and only 3 percent of major appliance shoppers complained of seeing few brands or models when they shopped at a walk-in retailer.
Abt Electronics scored highest for major appliances, and Amazon was the standout for its small-appliance selection. For major appliances, Home Depot scored lower than archrival Lowe’s, which, like most others in its category, was rated mediocre for selection. Readers were least appreciative of warehouse clubs’ small-appliance selection, panning Costco and Sam’s Club for small appliances. Best Buy and Walmart didn’t do much better.
Shopping tip. If a store doesn’t carry the model you’re looking for, ask whether it can order it for you from another store.
Wide range of service
The top problem, particularly for small appliance shoppers: salespeople who didn’t seem knowledgeable. But only 3 percent of those appliance shoppers complained that the sales staff didn’t seem interested in helping them.
For small-appliance shoppers at Amazon, respondents’ high praise for the company’s service is based on Web customer support. But walk-in stores also got high marks: Abt Electronics for major appliances and independent local retailers for all appliances.
Though readers were satisfied with warehouse clubs overall, they slammed small-appliance service at Target and Walmart — along with those at Costco and Sam’s Club.
Shopping tip. Some stores let you bypass the showroom floor altogether by shopping online, getting questions answered in a chat window, and picking up the item at a store of your choosing.
Hassles at the checkout
Getting hit with a pitch to buy an extended warranty at checkout has been a top annoyance in past surveys, and more than 85 percent of subscribers who bought a major appliance said their retailer suggested they buy one. P.C. Richard was the pushiest, followed by Best Buy, HHGregg, and Sears. Consumer Reports doesn’t recommend extended warranties. Past research has shown that the bill for any needed repair is often comparable to the typical cost of a warranty.
For small-appliance shoppers, both Sam’s Club and Walmart had poor showings at the checkout. Most major-appliance retailers enjoyed ratings that were better than average. With two notable exceptions, respondents were mostly lukewarm about their checkout experience when buying small appliances.
Shopping tip. If you’ve researched a product, you already know how reliable it is or you wouldn’t be buying it. That’s often a good rejoinder for any extended-warranty pitch you may get during checkout.